Op-Ed

American Muslims and the politics of pride and prejudice

People carry posters during a rally in support of Muslim Americans and protest of President Donald Trump's immigration policies in Times Square, New York, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017.
People carry posters during a rally in support of Muslim Americans and protest of President Donald Trump's immigration policies in Times Square, New York, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017. AP

For as long as I can remember, I have pledged allegiance to the flag, guarded by the Constitution, which guarantees liberty and justice for all. I have always hoped that those overseeing this country would endeavor to be a government of the people and for the people – not a group of vested-interest men, whose ambitions are driven by political self-promotion and violating the equal protection rights of a select religious group. Not an administration that deems itself a dynasty and is too comfortable with disproportion, unequal opportunities and injustice. The actions of the new United States president has put him center stage in the international community, especially in light of the innumerable stereotypes, misperceptions and misrepresentations about Muslims.

Donald Trump has devised executive decrees to convince Americans that this nation’s enemy, externally as well as internally, is Islam. The president’s diabolical program set out to deny fair and equal treatment of individuals by initiating a constitutional collision permitting discrimination based on religion and national origin. Since attesting to the Oath of Office, President Trump has willfully violated core constitutional principles and betrayed the public trust.

What would it take to break this dangerous, irresponsible spell and make us wake up to inquire, what on earth was this nation doing when it made the “Trump” spectacle a fundamental part of American politics? Although endeavoring to safeguard the United States is a respectable objective, the aggressive attempt to do so via religious racism is an obscenity, and using the power of the presidency to manage a worldwide ideological campaign against Islam is inflaming.

As an American, it is my duty to my country to respect its laws, to support its legitimate values and to defend it against the vengeance of those who seek to harm innocent citizens, and as a Muslim it is my right to practice my religion.

“America First” will not evolve from imposing schemes but from actions true to our principles and built on the values of liberty, equality, fairness and compassion for which American countrymen have sacrificed their lives for. These same principles have taught us to make an effort to try and understand, communicate across the gap and not leave the voices of protest to echo unheard in the ghetto of our ignorance.

If we could think for only a moment of how overwhelming the frustration of a violated refugee must be – made homeless by war – who, desperately wanting to believe in sanctuary, is halted in an airport, confronted by open prejudice and subtle hostilities at an American border entry, told he cannot enter and powerless to change his condition.

Currently there are more than 20 million displaced refugees, who wish to be part of this society – to share its freedom and its purposes. We can refuse this wish or strive to make it come true. If we withhold our humanity then we may choose creating tension, which will may disrupt the security and freedom of every citizen and, in a well-judged way, diminish the idea of America. If we choose humanity it will take effort, but we will choose to advance the well-being of all our people; choose to end distress and heal those have been harmed; and we will choose peace.

President Trump took an oath: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” This is just the beginning of where and when executive action loses its merit, conflicting with the Constitution is the starting point.

The ideal of America is a nation in which justice is done and, therefore, the existence of injustice – of unnecessary, inexcusable animosity – erodes our ideal of America. This country has always been a safe haven to the world for those seeking freedom and justice, and Donald Trump seems to have forgotten that.

Khalilah Sabra is executive director of the Muslim American Society Immigrant Justice Center in Cary.

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